Mission San José, San Antonio, Texas

Completed in 1782, the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo has gained the reputation as the “Queen of the Missions,” largely due to the restored, intact quadrangle of walls and residences. While all of the churches had plans for more elaborate decorations and size, only San José was able to complete its plans to the greatest degree of fruition.

Restored after falling into disrepair, much of the front façade of the church, which is more purely Mannerist and Baroque, and particular showing the influence of the Churrigueresque iteration of the latter style.

The central, two story portal looks heavily restored, as the sculptures are in much too great of a state of preservation. Times were rough back in the Eighteenth Century, and many of the missions never completed their grand plans. But nonetheless, the craftsmanship is worth admiring.

A small section of the original, painted stucco survives at the base of the completed bell tower, showing just how the polychrome would have enlivened the mission.

The interior, while not original, gives a good impression of what the original would have looked like, complete with a large retable in the apse.

The exterior side walls are massive, thick, and punctuated with buttresses.

The Rose Window is original, showing the increased quality of work on the mission churches in the late Eighteenth Century.

The convent sat behind the church.

I think this might have been the granary below; the walls of these missions and their outbuildings are built stoutly–four feet in some places. Huge flying buttresses hold up the vaulted ceiling and walls.

The interior of the building has been restored, with what are probably inaccurate light fixtures.

Of interest to the visitor are the walls, heavily reconstructed, that enclosed the mission’s precincts. This bastion intrigued me; the gun portals are carved out of a single block of stone, which I saw years ago of all places in an old Medieval fortress in eastern Germany.

The houses of the Native American residents were built up against the walls, saving the land in the middle of the quadrangle for gardens or community space.

A group of houses shared one oven; in many ways, much I’m sure to the shock of some Americans, they were all sort of communists, honestly. Below, I have no idea why cacti are growing on the roof of the porch next to one of the gates.

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